Alice Spawls reviews an exhibition of works by Leonora Carrington at Tate Liverpool, on view through May 31, 2015.
Spawls writes: "[Carrington] refused to explain her personal symbolism, but called reading The White Goddess ‘the greatest revelation of my life’. The figure of the muse, Robert Graves’s ‘Mother of all Living, the ancient power of fright and lust’, became less burdensome as manifested in The Giantess (c.1950), whose colossal central figure towers over the scene like a Madonna della Misericordia. She cradles an egg; geese fly out from beneath her pallium; her golden hair is a field of wheat. Around her feet a hunt is taking place – Uccello’s Hunt in the Forest but with a sylph instead of a stag – while the sea behind is teeming with boats, whales, crabs and bizarre creatures like monsters on a medieval map."
Anderson writes that the show "demonstrates how Carrington, with reference to her Irish background and Mexican surroundings, embraced the possibilities offered by an art that we are continually reimagining. Nothing is fixed, and there is liberation, mystery and glory in this, as Carrington’s paintings, at their best, brilliantly attest... With their myriad characters, narratives and settings, her paintings suggest not only that art and the imagination can liberate our thinking, but also, by implication, that we make attempts to close down the imagination at every possible opportunity. In one sense, the way she looked at the world existed long before that group of professional lunatics the Surrealists, long before Bosch and Brueghel, long before the first recorded myths even. It was born when we were and will vanish only when we do. And yet, for all her explorations of collective lore, Carrington was, and remains, unique."
Piri Halasz reviews three current painting exhibitions in New York: Surrealism and the rue Blomet at Eykyn MacLean (through December 13), Roy Lerner, Peter G. Ray: Wizards with Paint at Sideshow Gallery (through December 15), and Jules Olitski On An Intimate Scale... and Friends at Freedman Art (through January 31, 2014).
Writing about the Surrealism show, Halasz notes: "Masson’s automatist drawings and paintings in this show make me feel that the surrealist claim that such images leap spontaneously & unbidden from the artist’s unconscious can only be understood in the more general context of how every artist makes a picture. It was always more of a talking point than a reality---though for many artists, I am sure, a very helpful one."
Naves writes: "An illustrator by trade, Magritte didn’t extend himself when putting brush to canvas. The requisite job and nothing more—technique wasn’t allowed to intrude on the artist’s dreamscapes. But neither were they endowed with life. Signs are designed, not to entrance, but to communicate effectively, and so it is with Magritte’s conundrums. Give him this much credit: Magritte did get better. The initial galleries feature canvases notable as much for an oppressive lack of tonal range as for their morphing bodies, fractured dioramas and enigmatic rebuses. Round about 1929, not a few years after arriving in Paris, the lights get turned on: The images become illuminated. Perhaps it was close proximity to the Surrealist group and crystalline artisans like Dalí and Tanguy that spurred Magritte’s art. Whatever the case, a consequent variability in value and an increased finesse in execution do much to end The Mystery of the Ordinary on a happy note."
Micchelli writes: "as I circled around the first couple of rooms, I began to notice a qualitative difference among the images, which prompted me to take note of when and where they were painted. After an uninteresting start, represented by a selection of paintings and collages shunted off to the right side of the first gallery, Magritte suddenly catches fire and then almost immediately burns out. The most intriguing works in the exhibition were made in Brussels in 1927, with one or two from Paris in the same year. These paintings have a quasi-outsider feel, as if Magritte were molding his images out of inchoate interior sensations... The quiet strangeness of these works, and of others that are less sensationalistic but equally odd, distinguishes them."
Jason Foumberg remembers painter Ellen Lanyon (1926 – 2013).
Foumberg recalls that Lanyon "was more than willing to open the encyclopedia of Chicago art history that resided in her head and relate its content—but when it came to talking about her own art, she liked to keep things a little mysterious. Like the Victorian-era gadgets and contraptions that she collected and depicted in her paintings, only Ellen knew how they worked; only Ellen knew what they really meant... Lanyon’s life story is a microcosm of Chicago art in the mid-twentieth-century. She was a painter, printmaker, teacher, painting conservator, activist, feminist."
Intrigued by the multiple complexities in Greenwold's paintings, Bui writes: "With their repeated penetration of lines, Greenwold’s new paintings and drawings evoke Giacometti’s existential angst, while the calibration of scale among figures, objects, interiors, and landscapes conjures Balthus’s magnified psychological space. It’s notable that Greenwold achieves this synthesis despite his reliance on photographic sources, as opposed to Balthus’s and Giacometti’s use of direct observation. Greenwold gathers material for each painting by selecting fragmented reproductions of objects or interiors from design or architecture magazines for the backgrounds, and his own photos for the figures. While reflecting on this issue of searching for an ideal environment, which is constructed from other fragments of places and times, I remembered how Kafka seemed to imagine his characters and places in his mind’s eye rather than in specific locales; in Amerika, Karl Rossmann imagines the U.S. as a land of infinite possibility where everyone succeeds beyond his or her own dreams and fails beyond their wildest horrors. The novel ostensibly ends with Rossmann on the train heading out to work for the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Greenwold, too, has created his own theater of the absurd, though anti-nature and with a bent of humor and optimism."
Tony Zaza reviews the recent exhibition Paul Delvaux at Blain|DiDonna, New York.
Zaza notes" "One might consider that [Delvaux's] obsession with women was a kind of prison from which he was powerless to escape, except within the confines of the canvas, and later the mural. In his life, women were powerful figures. Yet, he is seemingly an incurable romantic, allowing us to delve ever deeper into his erotic neurosis. He takes a slight detour from this endless fleshy trek in 1949. This is when he populated his canvases with the iconography of medical skeletons, often thrusting them into biblical tableaux. Curiously, these paintings when shown in the 1954-56 Venice Biennial resulted in the Patriarch of Venice (future Pope John 23rd) to label the works as heretical."
DeWitt Cheng reviews a recent exhibition of works by Dorothea Tanning at Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.
Cheng writes that "Tanning created a forceful combination of erotic danger and allure... A push-pull between attraction and repulsion powers the abstract images of tangled, submerged female figures, flying or falling that evolved in her 'prism' or 'insomnia' paintings from the mid-1950s... In Faith, Surrounded by Hope, Charity, and Other Monsters (1976), there’s an unmistakable similarity to [Max] Ernst’s grattage paintings of the same period, but Tanning’s vision is darker—more romantic and dramatic."
Poundstone writes that recently "De Chirico was the only canonical modernist who spent most of his life proclaiming that modern art was junk. He called for a return to Old Master values as early as 1919, just as his career was taking off. The whole avant garde retreated after the first World War, but no one more decisively (and permanently) than de Chirico... De Chirico’s late career almost reads like a conceptual prank, a deep-undercover Andy Kaufman put-on in which he never broke character. The artist doesn’t crack a smile in his self-portraits, presenting himself as the very model of a major anti-modernist."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.